Ghosts, witches and uncanny doubles in feminist historical fiction: Sarah Waters’ Affinity, Jeanette Winterson’s The Daylight Gate and Rosie Garland’s The Night Brother

Course Dates: 07/05/22
Time: 11:00 - 16:00
Location: KS - Keeley Street
Discuss Sarah Waters’ Affinity, Jeanette Winterson’s The Daylight Gate, and Rosie Garland’s The Night Brother, their treatment of sexuality and gender, and their representation of Gothic motifs relating to the supernatural.
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Full fee £49.00 Senior fee £39.00 Concession £30.00

Course Code: HLT117

Sat, day, 07 May - 07 May '22

Duration: 1 session

Or call to enrol:020 7831 7831

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What is the course about?

We shall start by discussing the debates about the use of different forms of genre fiction, including Gothic fantasy as a vehicle for feminist writing, that took place among critics and writers in the 1980s. Whereas some women rejected genre fiction on the grounds that it might detract from the feminist significance of the text, others endorsed it as positive. We shall then explore three works of historical fiction published in different eras that employ Gothic fantasy highly imaginatively: Sarah Waters’ Affinity (1999); Jeanette Winterson’s The Daylight Gate (2012) and Rosie Garland’s The Night Brother (2017)

It is recommended but not mandatory to read the novels beforehand to get the most out of the session.
Handouts relating to the three novels and a bibliography of relevant critical reading will be provided by the tutor.

What will we cover?

We shall explore the different approaches to history that the three writers employ and their varied treatment of Gothic fantasy. Waters sets Affinity in Victorian London, constructing the text around the spiritualist movement and exploring the opportunities it gave working-class women for advancement. In depicting the relationship between Selina and Dawes and Margaret Prior, she also creates innovative representations of the haunted house motif. Winterson’s The Daylight Gate, in contrast, is set in seventeenth- century Lancashire and recreates in fictional form the lives of the so-called Pendle witches and their trial in 1621. Focusing on the widow Alice Nutter and her relationships with women and men, it depicts her role as assistant to the famous necromancer Dr Dee. Garland in contrast sets The Night Visitor in twentieth -century Manchester. She focuses on the adventures of Edie who at night appears to change sex and become transformed into a man. Is her male double a separate individual from herself, Edie wonders, or is he, on the contrary, as hinted at in episodes evoking present-day transsexualism, part of herself?

What will I achieve?
By the end of this course you should be able to...

-Have a general understanding of the three fictional texts of Waters, Winterson and Garland, including their treatment of theme, narrative structure and style and character portrayal.
-Be able to comment on the three writers’ approach to historical fiction and reference to Gothic fantasy.
-Be able to discuss their innovative treatment of gender and sexuality.

What level is the course and do I need any particular skills?

The course is suitable for all levels of literary appreciation, both students who have experience of analysing and discussing works of fiction and those who are unfamiliar with it . However, you will ideally require the following skills and attributes: an enthusiasm for reading and discussing literary texts and an interest in, and ability to listen to, the ideas of other students and their responses to the three texts that we discuss.

How will I be taught, and will there be any work outside the class?

Presentation by the tutor, small and large group discussion and reference to material on the handouts.

Are there any other costs? Is there anything I need to bring?

Handouts relating to the three novels and a bibliography of relevant critical reading will be provided by the tutor.

If you have them please bring copies of the novels to the session:
Rosie Garland, The Night Brother (2017, Harper Collins);
Sarah Waters, Affinity (1998, Virago);
Jeanette Winterson, The Daylight Gate (2012,Arrow Books in Association with Hammer).

When I've finished, what course can I do next?

Look for other literature courses at under history, culture & writing/literature.

Paulina Palmer

Paulina Palmer is a writer and critic working in the area of contemporary fiction. After studying for the Ph.D. at Cambridge, she taught at Warwick University and Birkbeck College, London. She has published five books including Contemporary Women's Fiction (Harvester Wheatsheaf) , Lesbian Gothic : Transgressive Fictions ( Cassell) and The Queer Uncanny: New Perspectives on the Gothic ( University of Wales Press). In addition to giving papers and lectures at conferences in the UK, she has recently lectured at universities abroad including Vancouver and Cholula University, Mexico. She has taught popular Saturday classes at City Lit on the fiction of Sarah Waters, Hilary Mantel and other writers, in addition to thrillers, historical fiction and gothic fantasy.

Please note: We reserve the right to change our tutors from those advertised. This happens rarely, but if it does, we are unable to refund fees due to this. Our tutors may have different teaching styles; however we guarantee a consistent quality of teaching in all our courses.